On this week’s episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are sharing our top 12 RV Travel Highlights of 2015. And as an added bonus, we have lots of listener highlights to share as well!
But before we get into that…we have our first big announcements of 2016! We will be attending the Florida RV Supershow in Tampa, Florida from January 13-17th. Stay tuned for more details about a scheduled meet and greet.
In 2015, we spent over 70 nights in the RV, staying in both public and private campgrounds, sometimes tucked away in the woods, other times sprawled out on souped-up patio sites.
We hiked and biked and kayaked and swam. We rode roller coasters, ziplines, water taxis and ski lifts. It was almost impossible to narrow our picks down to just 12, but we managed.
You might think that New Year’s is all about the resolutions. But we here at RVFTA believe in looking back and celebrating the best moments in our lives.
You are listening to Episode #69: Top 12 Travel Highlights of 2015!
I started drinking coffee when I was 13 years old. Young, right? But it made perfect sense at the time.
I was a teenager with no allowance and parents who were not inclined to buy frivolous items. I needed a job. Bad. Without a car or reliable ride, I had to look for something within walking distance. There happened to be a gas station up on the corner, so I paid the owner a visit, lied about my age, and started pumping gas the next week.
On Saturdays and Sundays I opened up the station. I would walk up to the corner at 4:45 am in the dark, take out my key, and start turning on lights. I stocked the chip racks, stacked packages of cigarettes, and made coffee.
By 5:30 am the fishermen and contractors started trickling in. I placed little meal worms in Tupperware, filled up gas tanks, and brewed pots and pots of coffee. Somewhere along the line I started drinking it side by side with my early bird customers. A morning ritual, still in place a quarter century later, was introduced.
My later jobs as a waitress and teacher ensured that coffee remained a central part of my work life. The unusual thing is that it never played a prominent role in my home. My parents did not make or drink coffee and Jeremy, my husband, didn’t touch the stuff. It was always just me, brewing it for myself, pouring it into a travel mug, and going on my way.
That is until my husband suddenly started drinking coffee at the age of 37. The man who had never drank a cup of coffee in his whole life found himself desperate to stay awake grading piles and piles of high school essays. At first the cups had lots of milk and sugar, later just a bit of milk, and now straight black just like I take mine.
The same man who had no idea how to use a drip coffee machine two years ago gets up every morning and grinds the beans, fills the machine with cold filtered water, and pours me my first cup, often telling me the region and roast. I can’t remember the last time I bought coffee. Jeremy stops at his favorite roasters on the way home and selects our beans for the week.
When we travel he stocks up the camper with all our coffee supplies and one of his favorite things to do is find a local roaster wherever we are staying.
They say that people don’t change, but that is not true. Eleven years into our marriage, Jeremy started drinking coffee.
So this week’s episode is all about coffee and how to get the best cup while you are traveling this beautiful country in your RV. I hope you get to listen.
We had a blast interviewing our local coffee roaster and had an amazing tasting, comparing different methods of brewing. The whole time I was thinking how wonderful it is that we really do grow and change as travelers and spouses and people.
I was also thinking back to that first cup of coffee at the gas station. Almost every single thing about my life has changed.
On this episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are sharing our 10 Reasons RV Vacations are Better. In our 20 years of traveling together, we have flown on planes, stayed in hotels, and rented vacation homes. But now it’s RV or Bust. We will talk about why there is simply no better way to travel for our family.
We are also reviewing one of our home state campgrounds, Pleasant Acres in the Skylands Region of Northwest NJ.
And we have a product review from a great new company out of California, Camp Casual. We will review a lovely 12 piece dish set and talk about how you can win one for your own RV. You can visit our Instagram page, Facebook page, Twitter feed, or Pinterest Gear Board for more information. You can also leave us a review of iTunes for an entry.
Remember, you can subscribe to RV Family Travel Atlas on iTunes, and thanks so much to those listeners who have written a review!
Whether you are vacationing in a hotel, renting a house, or staying at a campground, let’s face it–traveling with young children is a challenge. Even it is something you absolutely love to do, you can’t possibly claim it is easy (and keep a straight face). It takes work, and a whole lot of planning, to haul your little ones away from all the comforts of home and ask them to adapt to new environments, different schedules, and unfamiliar foods.
But we keep doing it. Year after year.
Starting in the spring and continuing through the summer and fall, we shop and pack and drive and unpack. Then we repeat the whole process again and again.
Why do we do this when it really would be so much easier to just stay home? I have a theory on this one…we are having fun. And by ‘we’ I mean my husband and me, the parents.
Sometimes when we become parents, we forget that we matter. We slowly but surely change all of our habits and activities to mirror the tastes of our toddlers, cooking bland food for dinner, playing the Wiggles in the car, and spending weekend afternoons at the local palace of inflatables. This tendency can creep into our travel as well, and all the sudden we find ourselves spending our vacation time standing in line at amusement parks, riding with characters on trains, or having expensive tea in a doll store.
Don’t get me wrong–we do that kid stuff a lot. If you read our blog, you know that Santa’s Village was a huge hit for this family. The Sky Wheel in Myrtle Beach? Diver Ed’s Dive in Theater? Sign us up.
But those kid-friendly diversions must be balanced out by things that we, as adults, truly enjoy and love. We have found so many activities that can do double duty–giving our boys the space to be kids, roam and explore, while feeding our curiosity, desire for adventure, and appreciate of natural beauty.
We believe that family fun should not be all about the kids or all about the adults. As parents we shouldn’t have to choose between Sesame Place or the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Both are fine in small doses, but there is a whole world of activities in between that satisfies everyone’s desire for entertainment and exploration.
So what’s our secret formula? That is what we will be talking about on next week’s episode of our podcast, RV Family Travel Atlas. We will discuss our go to activities that seem to make most of our family happy most of the time.
And when you are talking about a family of five, you know that’s no small feat.
We would love to hear from you, also. How does your family make sure that everyone finds their bliss while traveling? What’s your balance between kid entertainment and adult fun? You can comment below or email us to be featured on the podcast.
You can also listen to our RV Family Travel Atlas podcast: 10 Reasons RV Vacations are Better
A few years ago, a great hotel deal tempted us into booking a weekend getaway with the boys. We had never stayed in a hotel with them, and we were quite worried that everything, including sippy cups and blankies, would hit the fan.
Well, it did. Two nights in a hotel room with our two year olds had us running back to kiss the road our RV traveled on. After yelling don’t touch that three million times and locking ourselves in the bathroom to eat snacks and watch a movie on the laptop after bedtime, we were pining for the camper, the campground, and the campfire.
We have stayed in a few hotels since then, and we always leave grateful that our main form of travel is an RV. Here are our top 10 reasons why we choose RV vacations over any other type of travel.
The RVIA (Recreational Vehicle Industry Association) reports that RV vacations are 23-59% less expensive for families owning RVs. We have found that we save over 50% on most trips by traveling in our camper. This savings allows us to spend up to 40 nights a year on the road, something we could never do if we were staying in hotels.
Do you remember all those friends you met while staying in hotels? Yeah, neither do we. But we meet and talk to people from all over the world when we are staying at campgrounds. Over the last year we have met lovely folks from Canada, Wales, California, and Germany. We have been given impromptu floor plan tours by more campground neighbors than we can count.
When you rent a campsite, you also get room for your kids to roam. We can sit and relax while our boys play soccer or ride their bikes right in front of our site. This sure beats chasing them down a hotel hallway or yelling at them as they press every button in the elevator and set off emergency alarms. Not that we would know about that!
You don’t have to leave to find activities. They are right there at the campground. Some hotels have pools, but most campgrounds also have playgrounds, volleyball courts, fishing holes, mini-golf courses, crafts, and outdoor movie nights. The campground is not just a place to stay…it can become one of the most memorable parts of your vacation.
We have set up mini bars in hotel bathrooms and watched a movie on a laptop with shared earphones while the boys slept. Completely pathetic. At a campground, you put the kids to bed and then hangout around the campfire with food, friends, drinks, and music. What’s the contest?
RV vacations make it very easy to travel with family and friends. Our travel trailer sleeps eight comfortably, so we love it when guests come on trips with us. Buddy sites allow two families to camp side-by-side, creating a common area in the middle for meals and playtime. Both families have their own private space and plenty of room to socialize.
Most campgrounds are dog friendly, and many RVers travel with their four-legged family members. Many places have dog runs and pet playgrounds. There is also, of course, plenty of space for your morning and evening walks.
This saves you money and helps everyone eat healthier. We spend about the same amount of money on groceries whether at home or on the road, and we know our kids are getting a balanced diet—very tricky to accomplish while eating out three meals a day.
Yeah, someone else didn’t sleep in your bed the night before. And the night before that. ‘Nuff said.
Campgrounds encourage us to truly enjoy the great outdoors. From morning walks, to picnic table meals, to hide and seek under the stars, an RV vacation brings us closer to nature and closer together. There are tons of studies that point to the rejuvenating effects of time spent outside. Our three happy kids are proof enough for us.
We spend so much time in our RV, you might think we had the whole organization thing down. Actually, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Let me explain how this works. The whole time we are on vacation I take note of all of the things that are out of order and driving me crazy. I swear that I will find solutions and get things under control…as soon as we get home. Then we get home and I start worrying about work and regular old life with three kids. The camper sits in the driveway, dreadfully neglected until we are ready to hit the road again.
This spring I started to get really annoyed about this cycle. I decided that the only way I would ever break it would be to call in reinforcements. So I begged the assistance of Yvonne Moss, a general life-coach blogger whose junk drawer is probably more organized than any part of my house. I knew she would whip my RV mess into shape right quick.
I had hoped to get a few ideas from her about the kitchen and the wardrobes, our two main trouble spots in the RV. However, I ended up getting a lot more. Yvonne went through every inch of my camper, pulling out drawers, opening cabinets, and taking measurements faster than I could write them down.
Initially I thought I would do one before-and-after blog entry on my attempt to bring order to chaos, At the end of our “counseling” session, though, I had way too many tips and projects for just one article.
So I decided I would blog about it the same way projects actually get done in our life–bit by bit. I did a few things before we left for Cape Cod, and I am very excited to share them later this week.
So stay tuned for the Lively Little Camper’s Great RV Organization Project. Hopefully it will be easy, fun, and kid-friendly, just like all of our other trips!
Next up: very honest before pictures!
This article originally appeared in the Jayco Journal.
Isn’t it great when you can look back and laugh at an epic camping fail?
We have all had those trips that did not go exactly as planned, and ours was four years ago on a chilly weekend at Camp Taylor in the Skylands Region of New Jersey. Our family was still new to RVing, and we had only been on three trips with our pop up camper.
Let’s just say our lack of experience was embarrassingly obvious that weekend. From running out of propane in the middle of a 35-degree night, to an epic toddlers’ meltdown during a wolf preserve tour, we had our fair share of ‘moments.’
This past week we returned, and the experience was everything a great camping trip should be, full of playing, hiking, fishing, and lots of great eating.
So what changed? Mostly us. After spending over 100 nights in our RV, we have learned a few things. Here are the three most important lessons we can share from the past four years…
1. The campsite is everything, so do your homework.
It took us a while to realize that no matter how nice the campground is, your personal site must suit your needs as a family. A waterfront site sounds amazing right? Well, it turns into a stressful experience if you have twin two year olds trying to take a swim in the creek every moment of the day.
Our first site at Camp Taylor four years ago was surrounded by a beautiful, rocky landscape. Guess what? Toddlers love two things: climbing on rocks and throwing rocks, so we spent much of the weekend kissing boo boos and telling them no, no, no. Not ideal.
Now we take the time to talk to campground owners about our needs as a family. We are very specific about what we want—close proximity to the playground, little to no through traffic, and a bit of distance from neighbors who may be bothered by our children’s noisy antics. It may take a long phone call and a bit of persistence, but the perfect campsite for your family will change your vacation experience.
This year at Camp Taylor, we had a wooded back-in site with a wonderful open field in front for the kids to run, kick a ball, or play tag. The kids had fun and the adults relaxed. That is the very definition of a perfect site.
2. Be prepared, but be flexible.
We do a whole lot of planning before we leave on any vacation. That first trip to Camp Taylor was scheduled from start to finish. So even though our boys were tired from that first cold, sleepless night we tried to stay on schedule and move through the itinerary. Big mistake.
This year we had a general list of possible activities, but were always willing to adjust depending on the family mood. On Saturday the sun came out even though rain had been forecast, so we jumped in the car and headed toward the Delaware Water Gap to hike Mt. Tammany. The next morning we were planning on fishing but saw an advertisement for an Animal Frolic at a nearby farm. This ended up being one of the highlights of our trip, and we still fit in fishing later that day.
It certainly helps to do your research, but don’t get to flustered if you hit a speed bump. Just adjust the plan and keep having fun.
3. Find your own authentic experience.
When we first starting RVing, we tried really hard to create that authentic camping experience. We were packing coolers, cooking over the campfire, and gathering kindling from the nearby woods. Many of these ‘camp chores’ can be really difficult and time consuming with little kids underfoot.
It took us a little while to realize we didn’t have to rough it if we didn’t want to. We learned to embrace all the amenities that our travel trailer offered. The air conditioning, heat, refrigerator, and microwave get tons of use on all of our trips. The crockpot supplies many of our camp dinners.
We travel in our RV to find that perfect mix of adventure and relaxation as a family. Whatever helps us raise the fun level and lower the stress level becomes a part of our own personal authentic experience.
What lessons have you learned from years of RVing? Do you do things differently now than you used to? We would love to hear your stories!
My day started at 5:30 this morning. I was on my way to work by 6:50, getting the kids from school at 4:00, eating dinner at 5:30, and baths and bed by 7:00. In between all of these major checkpoints, there was lunch packing and dish unloading and oatmeal making and face wiping and milk pouring and media negotiating. Today wasn’t anything special. Today was busy. Most days are.
I’m a bit routine obsessed. The only way I can get through one of my typical week days is by having a mental checklist, marking it off in my mind, making sure that every necessary thing is accomplished by the time I kiss my boys good night. I don’t really feel guilty about this. I’m not one of those people that can relax amidst the chaos. If there is a baby toy on the floor, it must be picked up.
This tendency of mine is mostly positive, helping my family navigate those rough seas without feeling like we are on a sinking ship. However, some days I realize I am losing perspective, saying not right now when I should be saying yes, absolutely, right this minute.
Let me be clear: I do not feel guilty about taking the time to do my daily chores. I believe in making my family a healthy dinner every night, and I believe everyone should be picking up after themselves before settling in for the evening. But all of these things that I spend time doing will be quickly undone in a very short amount of time. There will be crumbs on the floor; there will be another mountain of laundry.
So the question occurs to me, in the middle of all of these necessary and good tasks, what permanent thing did I do today for my children? What did I offer them that will stay forever, that will change the way they behave towards one another, that will–in a tiny or big way–help them become happier, more loving, and more lovable human beings?
Tonight we taught Wes to dance to Sam Cooke. Max modeled some sweet moves, and we all laughed when the baby tried his hardest to mimic them. It was a busy day. Our permanent moment was small. But through it, we hope we told our children that we love music and we love them and spending time dancing together can shake off the stress of a long day.
I suspect one of the reasons we love traveling with our children so much is that it takes us out of the daily grind and helps us focus on the big picture. When we are somewhere new and exciting, we don’t get bogged down in errands and to-do lists. All we do is wonder, what could we do today that will be fun and fabulous and will help shape our children in the years to come?
So tomorrow do the dishes and the laundry and vacuuming. And then do at least one thing that is fun and fabulous, even if it is just dancing to Sam Cooke before bed. The carpet will get dirty again, but the music will stay the same, settling somewhere deep inside of them and forming a soundtrack for their lives.
Good work, parents.
On day sixteen of our road trip through North Carolina and Virginia Theo informed me that he wanted to go home. He was simple and direct.
“Daddy, I want to go home.”
“Daddy I want to go to another campin’ ground.”
I could have stayed on the road for the rest of the summer, but alas, for a variety of reasons, it really was time to go home. However, I tried to keep both boys happy.
“Well guys, we are going home tomorrow, but we are going to go camping again this summer!” Max smiled. Theo was silent.
“Where is the new campin’ ground?” asked Max.
“Vermont,” I responded.
“Theo, do you want to go camping again this summer?” I asked with a bit of concern. Was it possible that one of my sons did not love camping as much as I do? I could hear him thinking for just a second. Then he made an authoritative pronouncement that officially ended the conversation.
“Okay, I’ll take a chance.”
I found a whole philosophy of travel wrapped into Theo’s words. Our two day stop in Luray had been largely spontaneous and our hike and picnic lunch in Shenandoah National Park were planned only after we had reached the visitor center. Though unplanned, it was one of the two or three best days of our trip. We had taken a chance and been rewarded.
Our “Story of the Forest” hike had reinvigorated us in a profound way. It was the first hike that we have done since Wes was born and it felt really good. He was only three and a half months old but Stephanie was clearly ready and willing to plop him into her Ergo Carrier and hit the trail. But why was I surprised? This mom has always been fearless with her boys.
The Shenandoah hike made for a perfect ending to our road trip because it wasn’t really an ending at all. We had planned our upcoming Vermont trip months before Wesley was born. When I booked our sites at the Brattleboro KOA, and the Quechee/Pine Valley KOA I imagined us hanging out by the pool and playground and maybe strolling (literally with strollers) through some quaint Vermont towns in search of coffee and organic vegetables.
But our successful hike in Shenandoah has now reshaped our plans for Vermont. We are now in search of family friendly hikes and swimming holes. We plan on enjoying some relaxing campground time, but we also plan on getting some serious exercise with the boys.
We just got home a few days ago but we are ready to head back out on the open road. We weeded the garden. Did a mountain of laundry. Mowed the lawn. Visited with friends. Got library cards in our new town. Attended the County Fair. Cleaned the black tank. Trimmed the bushes. Set up Wesley’s nursery. Vacuumed the cereal off the floor of the camper. Brought the Silverado to the car wash. And now….
Ami (grandma on Stephy’s side) has flown into New Jersey. Bags are getting packed. Meals are being planned. Guidebooks are being consulted. The inside of the camper is looking like brand new. I even bought everyone new hiking socks. Too much travel this summer? Never. Stephanie and I have never regretted a road trip.
We are always ready to take a chance…
I looked forward to that trip every day while I was sitting in class and every night as I was laying in bed. The wild freedom of my childish imagination had kicked into overdrive. My mind envisioned the Magic Kingdom in epic terms–it was huge–it was fun–it was fast. The roller coasters reached up into the clouds and then plunged down into the deepest darkest depths. Inevitably, the actual trip, though excellent in every way, (I even met Joe DiMaggio for goodness sake) fell short of what I had imagined. The “real” Magic Kingdom was small and crowded, and there were only two roller coasters–neither of them very fast or very scary.
When we spend too much time dreaming about travel we often do ourselves a disservice–better to let the journey work its own magic and then let the imagination refine and mythologize it after the fact. For me that journey to Disney World was all about thwarted expectations. I needed to learn to become a better traveller, and eventually I did. In my late teens and twenties I let the experience of travel come to me without the baggage of expectation.
But now I am the one planning the trips for my family. And I spend an awful lot of time day-dreaming about them on cold winter days during the long work-week. But an interesting change has occurred. No matter how much time I spend imagining or pre-mythologizing the perfect RV trip with my family–they always end up being even better. Even with a baby crying for long stretches in the car, and twins that sometimes whine and misbehave–the trips always end up better than imagined. So I have been wondering, why is this? Doesn’t imagination always trump reality?
Not when you have kids. Travel is even more exciting for me now, and even better than what I can imagine on those dark winter days. This is because I simply can’t imagine how our boys will act in an exciting new environment, or how they will surprise us, and delight us, and make us laugh as they explore each new place. First they are shy, then inquisitive, then delighted, as they throw themselves into the thick of each experience. My boys always surprise me. Every day. Every minute. There is an element of spontaneity and joy that children bring to travel that can’t be matched by traveling alone.
Here is the recipe that has worked for Stephanie and me. The ingredients are simple. Please follow them if you can.
1. Have Children
2. Buy Camper
After that, the kids will pretty much take care of the rest.
Our last day on the beach at the Cape Hatteras KOA was as lovely as a beach day can be. The sky was blue and silver and the water was a translucent green straight to the bottom. The boys played in the waves, and mommy watched all three of them for a while so I could go out and surf. The waves were peaky and fun and the water was warm. While I caught a few the boys jumped and splashed and splashed at the ever-shifting edge of the sand. I think they love the beach as much as Stephanie and I do–and that makes me very happy–because I know we’ll take them back again and again.
Our beach camping trip had been lovely, but it was time to say goodbye to Cape Hatteras and hello to the next chapter of our North Carolina road trip. Not so sad really–we live near the beach at the Jersey Shore.
So traveling with kids is not all peaches and cream. We don’t want to sell our loyal readers a false bill of goods. As you know, we have a blast with our lively little campers, but there are also moments when parenthood can almost drive you bonkers.
We left for our sixteen day North Carolina extravaganza on Monday at about 3:00pm. And just like last year we decided to break up the drive to the Cape Hatteras KOA by staying at Camp Wal-Mart in Onley, Virginia–which could easily be renamed “Lonely Virginia.” Until our camping buddies arrived we pretty much had the place to ourselves.
The six hour drive to Onley was pretty rough. Baby Wes cried the entire time.
Mommy’s nerves were shredded. (Don’t worry, this photo is not from his car seat. We do buckle our children in.)
Once we got settled into Camp Wal-Mart the reality set in that the camper was pretty darn hot. So daddy heroically decided to head into the superstore for supplies and cold water.
Did I dawdle a little bit in the coolness of the camping aisle? Why yes, I did. But then I realized that Stephanie and my three little boys were alone in the back of a dark Wal-Mart parking lot. So I trekked back to the worst night of sleep I’ve ever had. The boys were sweating and scared, and I had to sleep on the floor between their beds. The problem with this scenario is that both of the twins still fall out of those beds a lot. They each crashed onto my head about three times during the night. I felt a little like Holden Caulfield–The Catcher in the Camper.
Morning came and we all woke up sweaty and sticky. So I headed outside to talk to camping buddy Joe who was parked next to us. After we greeted each other he suggested that we get the heck out of Dodge. He said, “I’m okay with spending the night here, but once the people start shopping and looking into our campers it’s time to leave.” We packed up pronto and headed back out onto the open road. Wes did a bit better during the final stretch–despite an explosive seven-wipe poop that found its way down to his toes. Camping Mojo levels were on the rise as we headed into Dare County and onto the Outer Banks.
When we arrived at the KOA things got fun really fast (as they pretty much always do)–and the stress of the long drive and the muggy night melted away.
We played on the pirate playground…
We splashed in the world’s greatest campground pool…
Then we headed over to the bounce pillow…
After dinner we went down to the beach for wiffle-ball and kite flying…
We told the boys no getting wet–and that seemed to make them a little sad. So they inched down a bit closer to the water…
And then they disregarded our “no getting wet” rule completely.
And I am so glad they did…..
I usually get the Organic Valley 12-pack which costs 9.99 on sale.
Sounds pricey for milk, right? Yes, it is–unless you consider the amount of milk you can waste when traveling with kids. Also consider what a pain it is to worry about keeping milk cold throughout the day. I only open one at a time and split it between the two boys’ sippies, so there is never any waste.
If I am shopping at Trader Joe’s, I will pick up a four-pack for 2.99. They don’t carry an organic milk box though, so I only do this if I will not have time to visit another grocery store before our trip.
My husband sees inclement weather as an opportunity to eat tasty treats, so tonight after dinner I made hurricane brownies with the boys. They ‘helped’ crack the eggs, melt the butter, and stir the batter. Then they watched with wide eyes as the batter turned to cake in the oven. After the brownies had baked, we washed them down with some nice cold milk from the fridge.
So not to worry, even if the power goes out tomorrow, we will still be able to wash down our hurricane brownies with milk. It just won’t be so ice cold.
Stay safe and enjoy your loved ones.
How did I let this Maine trip get so out of control?
It was the month of March and it had been a long, cold, difficult winter. The camper sat covered and unused in the driveway. Jeremy was bored and I was busy. So I yessed him to death on everything he proposed without really putting much thought into it. Months later I looked at the itinerary, then looked at him and asked him if he had a screw loose. He looked kind of sheepish like he had been asking himself the same question.
Nevertheless, we are soldiering on. To Brattleboro, Vermont; then to Camden Hills, Maine; then onto Acadia, Maine; then back down to Saco Beach, Maine. I guess eventually we will wind up back at home. Unless I get distracted for a moment and end up in Nova Scotia. Actually, I can think of a lot worse things…
Even before the boys came along in all of their life-changing glory, Jeremy and I were never ones for air travel. Aside from a few vacations here or there, we embraced the fine art of the road trip. We were pretty good at it, too. One time we made it all the way from New Jersey to California in about 50 hours, stopping only for a brief overnight in Denver accompanied by the best steak dinner of our lives.
So for most people, including us, this is how a typical pit stop goes: you find a place where you can get gas, eat a meal, and use the bathroom all in one shot. Once you have fueled up and filled up, you get your next shot of caffeine and off you go. This was the way we continued to do it for the first year of the boys’ lives. We just added diaper changes to the to do list.
As we have discovered over the last year, this is exactly the wrong way to do it when you are traveling with kids. Here is the rule to live by: your kids should be running, jumping, rolling, and tumbling for every single minute of a stop in order to make it truly count. How do you make this happen in a turnpike rest area with traffic and crowds and really, really dirty floors? You don’t. You avoid those places at all costs and you pull into the picnic areas and visitors’ centers that you used to blow right by before you had kids.
This past weekend we packed sandwiches before we left for the Poconos and stopped to eat dinner at one of our favorite rest areas: The Delaware Water Gap. Sticks, rocks, and dandelions…the boys were in heaven and the adults enjoyed a nice picnic dinner. Who would ever choose a McDonald’s over that?
I have never researched rest areas in advance. It is a good idea; I’m just not that motivated in the planning department. But if you are, you can find rest areas listed by state here: http://www.interstaterestareas.com/. Or you can go to the department of transportation website for whatever state you will be driving through.
And if you are ever in the area, remember this: Tennessee has the nicest, cleanest welcome centers you will ever see. The rocking chairs are to die for, and I found my first fish hatchery brochure there. Sigh.